Men’s Voices: Stepping Out of the Box

Thanks to funding from the Northern Heartlands, Awards for All, Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership and the Arts Council, our Men’s Voices exhibition is back, touring to The Witham (Barnard Castle, County Durham), Killhope Lead Mining Museum (Cowshill, County Durham) and Locomotion (Shildon, County Durham) in 2019 with a programme of linked events and workshops.

An original artistic exhibition exploring traditional masculinity; featuring textiles, poetry and sound recordings that consider how destructive social norms and stereotypes shape us and our mental health.

Discover how local artists broke down barriers with men and boys across the North East to explore aspects of masculinity that have been entrenched in this part of the world – with its history of industrial jobs that reinforced gender norms and shaped traditional roles of men and women.

Through discussions and art-making activities that the artists ran with men and boys in the area; we asked them to think about what it means to be a man and whether the social norms of masculinity are helpful/healthy. We’ll be showcasing some of the art that was created by both the artists and the men and boys involved.

As our tour unfolds, groups of young people from Teesdale School, Wolsingham School, Parkside Academy and King James I Academy will be creating a new body of work together with Visual Artist and Changing Relations Assistant Director, Polly Turner and Performance Poet Tony Gadd – whilst also being supported by participatory arts experts Helix Arts.

The Witham

Saturday 9th – Saturday 23rd February 2019

Multimedia exhibition in the Main Gallery. Free admission. No booking required.

Saturday 16th February 2019

Panel Talk: How do gender norms impact mental health? 1.30-2.30 pm. Admission: £5 or £4 Concessions. Book via The Witham.

Building on the exhibition theme, join us for this thought-provoking Panel Talk discussing how gender norms affect mental health.

When we talk about gender norms, what we’re referring to is the set of expectations we believe that society has established for how we should behave – whether we’re a man or a woman.

The big question on our minds is whether mental health would be completely gender neutral if it weren’t for all the societal messaging around what it means to be a man or a woman?

We have three brilliant speakers on board who all specialise in mental health and promise to bring interesting angles to the debate. Professor Brendan Gough specialises in masculinity and its impact on men’s health and lifestyle and Caroline Dower who has been a psychotherapist for the past 20 years, in the NHS, private practice and now as Head of the Counselling Service at Durham University. Caroline has a particular interest in the non-verbal aspects of mental health; how are moods are impacted by our physical bodies and how we can engage our bodies and non-verbal approaches to improve our mental health.

Chris Hemmings is a journalist and author of the book ‘Be A Man – How macho culture damages us and how to escape it’.  The book looks at the myriad of ways in which the male pursuit of dominance damages men, women, boys and girls both physically and mentally. It also charts his own journey, and how buying into macho tropes took him places he is now ashamed of.

Chris has written on the subject for numerous national newspapers, made films for the BBC and now speaks at schools, universities and places of work to promote a healthier idea of what it means to be a man. He speaks openly and honestly about his own mistakes, not least as part of university rugby culture, and draws on the experience to make his message relatable to audiences of all ages.

We’d love to know what questions you would ask our panel! Tweet us with your questions at @changerelations by midnight on Thursday 14th February – using the hashtag #mensvoices – if you’d like us to put it to one or all of our speakers!

Spoken Word Creative Writing Workshop, 2.30-3.30 pm. Admission: Free but please still book via The Witham.

Following the Panel Talk, Durham based Gong-Fu Poets founderTony Gadd hosts a creative writing workshop – based on spoken word – allowing you to explore your thoughts on gender norms and mental  health. Tony will give a quick overview on what Spoken Word is, which includes a brief idea of its heritage and an example from his own work, before giving you the confidence to find a voice of your own and put pen to paper.

Killhope Lead Mining Museum

Monday 27th May – Sunday 9th June 2019

Exhibition in the Buddle House. Free admission. No booking required.

Saturday 1st June 2019

Panel Talk: What should we do with our industrial heritage? 12-1 pm. Admission: £5. Book via Killhope.

Join us for this thought-provoking and timely discussion – should we celebrate our industrial heritage? Or does it hold us back? Durham Book Festival contributors, Michael Chapin and Lucie Brownlee promise to bring different angles to the debate. Whilst Mining Art Gallery curator Angela Thomas and Eldon Lane Cree community group leader, Tony Bird will also contribute their take on this compelling subject. Angela is an experienced and knowledgeable museum and heritage professional with expertise in the social history of the North East.

Michael Chaplin is a playwright, screenwriter and author of non-fiction books. Among his many credits on television, radio and the theatre is the long-running drama for BBC Radio 4 ‘The Ferryhill Philosophers’, which is set in the Durham town in which he spent the first few years of his life. Michael’s father was the novelist and short story writer Sid Chaplin.

Lucie a best-selling writer and researcher based in County Durham. In October 2018 she completed a writing commission for Durham Book Festival based on four generations of women in Easington, which explored untold stories from ‘the world above’ the pit. She is now developing this commission into a book length narrative with funding from the Society of Authors. In 2018, she won a Northern Writers’ Award for her novel The Song of Annie Chapman, on which she is currently working. Lucie holds a doctorate in Creative Writing from the University of Newcastle, where she also teaches.

Spoken Word Creative Writing Workshop, 2-3 pm. Admission: £5. Book via Killhope.

Local Performance Poet Tony Gadd provides an opportunity for you to express your own thoughts on the Panel Talk themes of our industrial heritage and the gender norms it has left us with, using creative writing and spoken word. Tony will give a quick overview on what Spoken Word is, which includes a very brief idea of its heritage and an example from his own work, before giving you the confidence to find a voice of your own and put pen to paper.


Saturday 11th – Wednesday 22nd May 2019

Exhibition in the Engine Shed. Free admission. No booking required.

Stepping Out of the Box

Ultimately, we want to empower all genders to question destructive cultural pressures and seek healthier alternatives. We’re currently working with men, boys, women, girls and LGBT groups to extend the body of artwork contained in our original exhibition to pose questions around gender norms more broadly. At this stage our exhibition will become Stepping Out of the Box and will showcase at brand new cultural venue, The Art Bunker in Bishop Auckland in September.